A chocoholic's quest: Chocolátl

A chocoholic’s quest: Chocolátl

Oct 4, 2012 |  by  |  Food, Spots
About the author
Writer. Feminist. Photographer.

Hi, my name is Andrea and I’m a chocoholic. I won’t give up my addiction. I refuse to. I melt over chocolate. Yet, I won’t settle for any chocolate bar. Thus began my quest to find some of the most unique chocolate shops and chocolatiers in our beloved Amsterdam. If you are a chocolate lover like myself, join me in this divine experience. Heaven is just a bite away.

As I step inside Chocolátl, located in the Jordaan, I hear Erik Spande talking chocolate with a customer who happily walks out of the shop with a bag full of goodies. I’m greeted by a huge smile and a handshake. The Portland native invites me to take a sit, as I look around in awe at the white wooden shelves that seem to hold very thin books, but actually are delicately, widely different wrapped chocolate bars.

Four years ago Erik’s wife, Leslie, landed a job in Amsterdam. This huge move meant that Erik could now do something he dreamt of doing for a long time. Back in Portland, he kept in the back of his mind the idea of having a chocolate shop where he could not just sell chocolate, but cultivate a new way of interacting with chocolate. “I have always loved chocolate, and through my wife we developed this passion.”

The kind of chocolate found at this shop is carefully selected. In the same way wines are chosen, Erik carries out a lot of research. He knows everything about the different kinds of beans, their origin, the process of roasting and making the chocolate. He works with artisans who make the most beautiful, tasty and dreamlike bonbons and chocolate bars.

There are many dynamic micro-producers that are popping up, as the culture of chocolate becomes more predominant throughout the world

While I sip a cup of naturally creamy white Oolong tea, Erik tells me of the challenges and decisions faced at the beginning. “This kind of chocolate didn’t exist here,” he said. “The Jordaan was very important for us, as it’s a community that supports small businesses.” They have built a chocolate culture from the ground up. As slow as the process has been, Erik is deeply grateful by how people have reacted to his concept and is encouraged daily to continue providing friendly service along with high quality chocolate.

But how did he make it happen? Research. “Most of what we carry I had known before we moved here.” “It was a question of finding a distributor or in many cases going to the producer directly.” There are many dynamic micro-producers that are popping up, as the culture of chocolate becomes more predominant throughout the world. Everything found in Chocolátl is a collection of products they both truly like. ”If there’s something we can’t stand behind, we won’t sell it.”

There is so much we, consumers, don’t know about chocolate. Erik invites customers to taste the chocolate. He believes in sharing his passion through literally sharing his product. He organizes tastings. If you drop by and are interested by a name, or a region, he will let you taste the chocolate before you buy it. He doesn’t want people taking something home that they might not like.

I love drinking chocolate, it’s my favorite way to consume chocolate

I tell him I’m from Bolivia and he says, “I have Bolivian chocolate”. He gets up and returns to the table with a chocolate bar made in Switzerland, whose headquarters are in Amsterdam. But the cacao beans come from Beni, this Amazonian region in Bolivia. “These beans grow in the wild, they are not massively grown. They are like a drop in a bucket.” We then arrive at the discussion: Where is chocolate truly from? There are two things to think about: where the beans come from and where the chocolate is made. “The main raw materials come mostly from Equatorial countries,” however, “a large portion of the chocolate is made in the U.S. or Europe.” There are exceptions to the rule, but until now it is Americans and Europeans that are playing with the cocoa beans the most.

Two curious shoppers come inside Chocolátl. Erik stands up and offers his help. They looked forward to some coffee, but are intrigued by what’s on his menu. Erik then talks to them about his specialty drinks, and begins to make some hot chocolate, which he treats me to as well. Let’s just say it was the best cup of creamy sweet warm goodness I have ever had. After, he tells me, “We have become known for ‘drinking chocolate’, creating a community of loyal customers.” Erik happens to love drinkable chocolate too.”I just love to drink it.”

Chocolate at one point was a commodity only the rich could afford

If I may drop a bit of history on you, Aztecs and Mayans were the first ones to drink a bitter beverage made of cacao beans. Interestingly enough, Europeans did not like this beverage and had no interest in cacao when Spanish first came across “chocolate.” Funny fact, according to a Smithsonian article, in 1828 it was a Dutch chemist who found a way to make powdered chocolate and subtracting the bitterness out of it. Chocolate at one point was a commodity only the rich could afford. Thanks to my lucky stars, that’s no longer the case in this country at least. The bars, powder chocolate, chocolate spread, and bonbons found at Chocolátl come from various parts of the world. I can see and feel the love Erik and Leslie have for their shop and products.

The weather is cooling down, lift your spirits with a cup of drinkable chocolate or stock your cupboard with some great chocolate bars. Now, I’m off to enjoy my basil and lime dark chocolate bar made by Chantal Coady, owner of Rococo. Until my next adventure!


Where: Hazenstraat 25-A, 1016 SM Amsterdam
More info: Chocolátl on Facebook

Photos by Andrea Huls

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